Dog license

Dog license fee hike would solve Pennsylvania office budget deficit

Pennsylvania could regain the dubious nickname of the nation’s puppy mill capital without an increase in state dog license fees this year, Agriculture Department Secretary Russell Redding warned Wednesday.

He joined two state lawmakers and Gisele Fetterman, wife of Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, in seeking support for an annual license fee increase from $ 6.50 to $ 10. Lifetime costs would drop from $ 31.50 to $ 49.

The fees have not increased for 25 years, Redding said.

“For the first time since the state dog law was enacted in 1893, in 2020 the department had to use taxpayer funds to enforce state dog laws,” he said. -he declares.

The office’s budget of $ 8.6 million had a funding gap of $ 1.4 million, and the department included additional appropriation in Governor Wolf’s proposed budget to close the gap from the last year and is looking for another $ 1.5 million transfer in 2021-2022, Redding said. .

“It’s more than critical,” he said.

Over the past 25 years, the Agriculture Department’s Bureau of Dog Law has seen its staff cut by 23%. It has 57 full-time employees, officials said. The office oversees kennels and boarding schools, manages the state’s Dangerous Dog Registry, oversees state licenses and dog guards, reimburses shelters for stray housing, and investigates puppy mills and outbreaks. in kennels and shelters.

Redding noted that the large population centers of Lancaster and Montgomery counties are both without dog sitters due to lack of funding. He said many existing dog sitters in the state are investigating incidents in multiple counties due to the cuts.

The office is funded primarily by the cost of dog licenses.

“We have been warning for some time that without legislation to increase dog license fees to fund the office, protections could not continue at the same level of service for dogs and the citizens of Pennsylvania,” Redding said. . “… The office has not been able to fill the vacancies, which exhausts the keepers, pulling them from other areas to cover more territory, resulting in fewer kennel inspections and an inability to respond to complaints from the public about stray dogs, vicious dogs or illegal kennels. ”

The impact has been statewide, officials said.

Shannon Powers, Department of Agriculture press secretary, confirmed that in southwestern Pennsylvania, labor shortages have resulted in reduced annual canvassing in communities for dog licenses by goalkeepers since 2019.

Annual canvassing activities often encourage residents to acquire dog licenses.

Redding estimated on Wednesday that only 50% to 60% of dogs in the state are allowed.

According to the Westmoreland County Treasurer’s Office, the number of dog licenses sold between 2019 and 2020 has declined by more than 17%, from 40,399 to 33,403. Allegheny County Treasurer’s Office officials don’t did not immediately respond to calls for comment.

Democratic State Senator Judy Schwank, of Berks County, and State Representative Eddie Day Pashinski, of Luzerne County, said their corresponding laws would increase dog license fees and adequately fund the office to continue to protect dogs and the public.

“If you can’t afford about a dime more a day for a price, then frankly you probably can’t afford a dog,” Pashinski said.

Paul Peirce is an editor for Tribune-Review. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, or via Twitter .